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Septic Tanks in South Carolina

Ordinance, Survey and Inspection Templates

Write an Ordinance to Require Baseline Inspections

In a routine annual septic tank inspection, solid and liquid levels in the septic tank are measured to determine if pumping is necessary.

But in a baseline inspection, the tank must be pumped out so that the inspector can examine the tank and assess its condition.

Cities sometimes pass ordinances to require baseline inspections whenever property is sold, renovated or changes occupancy status – from owner-occupied to short-term rental, for example.

What Your Town’s Baseline Inspection Ordinance Should Include

  1. For construction of new structures, required state permits and certificates should be indicated, and any standards that are more up-to-date than state regulations included, such as:
    1. ‘Number of bedrooms,’ defined specifically, to keep septic systems from being undersized;
    2. Setback to surface water, gauged by DHEC’s definition of ‘Critical Line’ rather than mean high water;
    3. Septic tanks requirements, expanded to include two-compartments and access manholes.
  2. A statement to require a very thorough baseline inspection (for which tank pumping is automatic) for sale of property, building renovations, and change in occupancy (e.g., long-term residential to short-term rental). Some ordinances also add a requirement that a permit from DHEC be obtained to ensure that septic tanks can handle additional waste load that will result from any renovations or change in occupancy.
  3.  Operation and maintenance standards are spelled out for the city, town, or county, and for property owners. These may include:
    1. For the city, town or county: a list of approved inspectors; random site visits during inspections and repairs; response to complaints.
    2. For property owners — operation and maintenance of system as designed; responsibility to provide system information to the city/town/county and its inspector; responsibility to keep system accessible for inspection and protected from vehicular traffic.
  4. Procedures and timelines for doing minor repairs and for ‘failure’ evaluation and repairs should be laid out.
  5. A statement summing up the city/town/county responsibility for making sure the public is educated about the ordinance and for keeping records.
  6. Financing and funding of the ordinance and the possibility of a homeowner loan program should be detailed, and the responsibilities of the city/town/county for budget matters relating to the ordinance laid out.
  7. The ordinance should reference standard city/town/county enforcement and penalty language as appropriate.

Sample Templates: Septic Tank Ordinances and Forms

Your town may find these generic templates useful. Also see a sampling of actual ordinances passed by towns in and outside of South Carolina.

NOTICE: These survey and ordinance templates and examples do not constitute legal documents or the provision of legal advice. They are provided here for review, reference, and example purposes. Any use of these models must be modified, reviewed, and approved by the appropriate local government board or council and the local government attorney or other legal counsel.

Ordinance Template: Baseline/Routine Maintenance Inspections

Ordinance Template: Point of Sale, Renovation and Change of Occupancy

Ordinance Template: Comprehensive Baseline/Routine Maintenance Inspections - Under this ordinance, all properties in the community are required to eventually undergo an inspection. This ordinance may be more suited to a community with low property turnover.

Survey Form: Assessment of Local Residential Septic Tanks Systems (doc) - This survey form was used in the Sewee to Santee pilot inspection project. Your municipality could use it as a first-step assessment tool.

Agreement: Hold Harmless (doc) - This form tells the homeowner that their yard will be disturbed during the inspection, that there is some risk of damage to their system, especially older systems, from the inspection, and that the inspection does not guarantee future system performance.

Baseline Inspection Form (doc)

For additional information, contact: (803) 898-4329 Fax (803) 898-4200